There's always room for a little cuteness on a Wednesday afternoon! In our March issue, Claire Hamblion of Supreme looks at why these make such cute – but choosy pets. Until then, enjoy this video of baby chinchillas having a dust bath.
Cotswold RAW is offering the crowd a 10% stake in its bustling rural business as it seeks to raise £250k that will deployed to expand its product range whilst evolving both its distribution and production infrastructure.
With some 8.5million dog owners in the UK it makes real sense to invest in a food arena which has enjoyed enviable growth, both in times of economic boom and austerity. With 1-3 dogs currently suffering from ‘obesity-related’ issues it’s vital that the same ‘healthier living’ momentum that is slowly but surely changing the face of human consumption is allowed to migrate into pet food.
With a state-of-the-art, Defra approved kitchen facility (7000sq ft) Cotswold RAW stands tall as a proud family-owned, rural voice championing human-grade ingredients (meat, bones, seasonal veg and beneficial herbs), local sourcing (wherever feasible), ingredient traceability and long-term countryside sustainability.
‘Pet humanisation’ is the popular movement which recognises that dogs are less pets and more integral members of the family, a thought-provoking realization that encourages health conscious pet owners to apply the same sensible choices to their pet’s food as they would their own: all-natural, nutrient-rich, flavoursome, the welcome presence of superfoods…
Find out more at: www.crowdcube.com/cotswoldraw
Capital at Risk #INVESTAWARE
By Claire Hamblion, Marketing Manager for Supreme Petfoods
Social media offers many opportunities for retailers and is often considered a ‘free’ marketing tool. However, anyone who has used social media will also tell you that if you consider the cost of the time it takes to create a positive social presence it can really add up. Although great content will still reach a wider audience it’s also true that social is increasingly becoming a ‘pay to play’ medium where posts or tweets need ad spend behind them to really get in front of the people that matter.
Facebook and beyond
While Facebook is still the most popular platform, most people tend to be on multiple platforms so don’t underestimate the power of You Tube and Twitter. Different platforms offer different demographics – Twitter users are usually slightly older, Instagram users tend to be younger and Linkedin tends to be used more in a business and career context. Take a look at the latest stats – Pinterest is currently over twice as popular as Instagram worldwide. Choose the medium that best suits your store.
While there are benefits to being on multiple platforms, also keep in mind that more platforms take up more time and it is probably better to be effective on one or two platforms than to spread yourself too thin and fail to make an impact. All your platforms should be monitored at least daily – and yes that includes weekends and bank holidays too. Most people expect to have a question or complaint on social media addressed within 24 hours but ideally within 60 minutes. The longer a complaint exists without moderation on your page the more likely other posters will share similar negative experiences.
Sharing news stories that are trending should help improve your reach. There are several ways to do this. On Facebook and Twitter you will usually see trending stories on your home page – use the relevant hashtags or share suitable stories with a comment. Make sure the stories are relevant to your business and reflect good pet care practice.
Some sites also help you find content –Right Relevance, Mention, Google Alerts and Klout allow you to set up topics that interest you (eg rabbits, guinea pigs, small pets) and can help you track trending or interesting pet stories. You can also actively search on interesting words within social platforms or online – examples could include hay, rabbit news, or funny stories about pets. See what’s going on in your area – sharing stories about lost pets, for example, integrates you into the local and animal owning community.
We’ve created regular events that run on our pages, such as ‘Furry Friday’. This gives the fan base something to look forward to and creates a positive association with our brands. This also helps to provide some structure for the content and reduces the burden to repeatedly come up with new ideas. Retailers can be part of Furry Friday by sharing posts.
Think about creating not just weekly repeating events but an annual calendar with seasonal events and pet related awareness days. By thinking about your content in advance you are less likely to make mistakes or forget to post when the store is busy. This also allows you to pre-load it to be published at optimum times.
Don’t be too ‘fluffy’
Know what you want to achieve from social media. Sharing photos of beautiful animals can of course help to make your page popular but might not do much for your business longer term. Educational content can help raise awareness of issues and problems and the associated products you stock. Create links back to your website or include a call to action such as ‘Buy now’.
Tell your story over several posts so your customers’ understanding builds up over time and include some good photos that help you illustrate the key points. Free design sites like Canva include professional images to buy for around a dollar and allow you to add your shop logo and/ or contact details so they are easy to see when content is shared. You can also create your own memes using this kind of tool. Make sure you mix and match with some ‘fluffy’ content too so your platforms don’t get too sales driven.
As well as follower and fan numbers, track engagement – this is easy to do on most platforms. Work out what kind of content your audience finds most engaging.
On Facebook there are options to boost posts and create ads. Even a small spend of £5 to £10 can significantly increase the reach of your content. Use the targeting options to select the geographical area of those that see your promoted content and also select the areas of interest – such as rabbits, cats or dogs. Be as specific as possible – create content just for rabbit owners for instance and not only will it build your credentials but your audience will be able to share with other rabbit owners in their community.
Keep learning more about what works by going back to the analytics and noting what people are saying when they call about products related to your posts. This will help you produce better results over time. The take home message is that using social won’t magically transform your business unless you apply the same business acumen to it as you apply to all other marketing activities. Sometimes it pays to get serious!
BY CHARLOTTE LONG
It’s estimated there are over 16 million pet cats and dogs in the UK and you don’t need to be an animal enthusiast to notice an influx of certain breeds. In 2016 it seemed people went barking mad for Pugs, French Bulldogs and Boxers (we’re looking at you John Lewis) while British Shorthairs, Bengals and Persians were the cat breeds of choice.
But it probably comes as no surprise that the loyal Labrador has stayed firmly at the top of the UK league table. The first sightings of the breed in Britain were in the late 18th century and they remain a popular choice due to their family-friendly nature.
“Based on the Kennel Club’s registration figures, the most popular dog in the UK is the Labrador Retriever,” says Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary.
“Reasons for the breed’s continued popularity may include their good temperament and tendency to make great companions. Labradors are also intelligent and agile, making them good working or assistance dogs with the right training.”
What can increase the popularity of a breed? A range of things according to Caroline: “There are many factors that can be attributed to the popularity of individual breeds. In recent years breeds that see sudden increases in popularity usually do so because of celebrities and fashion, and more recently, social media, meaning that suddenly there is a huge demand for them which can have positive and negative effects on a breed.
“The popularity of dogs on Instagram can raise awareness of breeds that people may not have come across before, but that may be suitable for their lifestyle, for example, Corgis. In recent years Pembroke Welsh Corgis were on the Kennel Club’s vulnerable breeds list but in 2015 they officially came off the list after seeing a great increase in numbers. This boost is attributed in part to several ‘famous’ Pembroke Corgis on social media channels.
“Social media can also correct misconceptions about certain breeds. Ramsey the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a great example of this because he has shown hundreds of thousands of Instagram users the true nature of his breed – friendly, loyal and charming dogs, not the aggressive dogs that the media often try to portray them as,” continues Caroline.
John Lewis’ highly anticipated Christmas advert last year made Boxers the star of the show – with Buster the Boxer bouncing on to everybody’s televisions and social media feeds. Could the breed’s jump into mainstream media mean a spike in sales this year?
The Kennel Club says internet searches for Boxers soared by 160 percent after the commercial appeared on TV.
Vikki Van-Beck, from KC-assured Boxer breeders, Newlaithe, says the advert brought up some issues: “The advert was ideal for the people who breed litters for money and have no care where their puppies end up. It’s a fantastic ad, and a credit to Biffs’ owners (although his name is Buster in the advert!), but the aftermath has to be considered.”
The RSPCA also warns about the danger of pet breed fads. In 2016 they launched a campaign after an influx of fashionable dog breeds and ‘designer’ crossbreeds were arriving at its centres.
According to the charity, responsible breeders are struggling to keep up with the demand for popular breeds, leading many prospective dog owners to turn to puppy farms and, all too often, ending up with dogs with health problems or behavioural issues. The RSPCA saw more than a 100% rise in Chihuahuas coming to their centres from 2012 to 2015, the results of the handbag dog trend. ‘Designer’ crossbreeds being abandoned such as Labradoodles (Labrador cross Poodle) and Puggles (Pug cross Beagle), have also risen. But, as has always been the case, Staffordshire Bull Terriers remain the most frequent residents.
Caroline reiterates the danger of pets being seen as fashion statements: “We also often see trends in dog breeds being influenced by celebrities, which is a concern, as it implies that dogs may be seen as fashion accessories rather than a long term commitment. Battersea Cats & Dogs Home have seen an increase of larger, working dogs at their centres because of certain popular television shows. “In recent years, we have seen a rise in the number of Huskies, Akitas and Alaskan Malamutes coming through our doors. These beautiful dogs have seen their popularity soar thanks to TV series such as Game of Thrones. But you need a lot of space and time to look after one of these dogs, with the energy and knowledge to look after their needs,” says Centre Manager Robert Young.
“Domestic Shorthairs are by far the most common breed of cat in the UK so that’s why we see so many of them come through our doors,” adds Robert.
Cat breed popularity seems less susceptible to the influence of celebrity, TV and social media. But there’s no denying that interest in our feline friends has increased ten fold since the birth of the World Wide Web. Almost half of all original YouTube videos are of people’s pets, and around 26 billion views are just for cats, making them the single most popular category.
Dog and cat breed popularity will forever be evolving – and there are many positives to that, for example certain breeds being taken off endangered lists. But it’s important to remind potential owners that a pet is not the latest handbag, it’s a long-term commitment.
Small animals can't go shopping for themselves but if they could, here's the products they might choose!Read More
WORDS: John Courteney-Smith MRSB
Reptile keeping in the UK has a long and ever growing tradition. This has of course allowed a vast swathe of our industry to participate in some way inside of the trade at some time. There are now some outstanding reptile specialist shops operating in the country and many of these with international links. At home breeding is at an all-time high as we continue to grow in both species knowledge and of course access to the right products to be able to see such species truly thrive.
Yes, on the face of it the reptile hobby is ever growing and adapting to the change that is so badly needed. Yes, the recent national swing towards naturalistic systems, based upon the theory of Wild Re-Creation™ and Bio-Activity has caused even further growth as keepers seek to create stunning enclosures and to maintain and breed once hard to keep species. This move towards a more effective and I would say more ‘ethical’ level of care has bought keepers back into store to purchase the many more items that are needed to maintain such enclosures in their droves.
This in of itself is one of the keys to the continued survival of the UK reptile trade, getting our hobbyists back into store and subsequently providing them with the right information and the opportunity to purchase the correct products. The days of homemade systems and ‘DIY’ products could become a distant memory as we seek to give the correct advice with a common goal to spur on the hobby and to see a continuing and everlasting improvement to animal welfare, whatever the species.
As such when I am now asked if an existing or even new pet trader should include a reptile offering instore my answer will always be the same. “Yes of course! the trade needs all of the help that it can get, but, to do it right will take a level of investment, dedication to standards and the ability to recruit the right members of staff to manage the section well”.
Yes there will always be a need for the small shop that maintains a small stock of livefoods and consumables but for those of us that wish to go beyond the norm and to offer livestock further thought is always needed.
This need not put you off! The reptile ‘trade’ is full of helpful and passionate people! The reptile goods wholesalers have a vested interest in seeing you yourself thrive and go onto bigger and better things. As such be prepared to listen, take notes and to take the good advice that they can give. Professionals from the trade should be a keeper themselves and have access to the knowledge that you will need to prosper and they will be more than willing to share it. Yes, there is more than enough support, both intellectual and in the form of product and POS to go round and if you have an open mind you will benefit greatly.
You should therefore make contact with the professional reptile wholesalers and brands and ask for their guidance before making any commitment to ‘go it alone’. You will find that between them that a plan of action can be formulated and tailored to the needs of your own geographical area and to the budget of your investment. It is vital that you start as you mean to go on, remember, ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’ and it could be said that it is this first impression that will set the standard of interest into your business on an ongoing basis.
UK keepers on the whole have a high level of knowledge themselves and will have an expectation of a store and its own ‘ethics’. They will be looking to see a high level of instore care and staff knowledge and dedication and they will be looking to find the products that they need to support their obsession day to day. For this you need to have a good level of variety and you will need to have good stocks of the brands that they place their trust in. If you can offer this there is no reason at all why you will not succeed.
As you can see this is no longer a simple case of buying in a few products, putting them on display and hoping for the best. No, it will take a positive mind-set to ‘do it right’ or not at all. In all of this the greatest and most vital investment to be made is within your staff. If you yourself are not a dedicated keeper, up to date with the latest science and product/species information you will indeed need to find someone who is. The success of your ‘brand’ and yes, every good reptile store has its own ‘brand’ or way of doing things is very dependent on the quality of knowledge, manner and the dependability of the staff that manage it. Giving the wrong information to a knowledgeable keeper is now not easily forgiven but is easily and instantly shared via the internet around the world. This can be a constant frustration or reversely a benefit as a positive experience is just as easily shared.
This is the way of modern business and marketing. Our successes are wholly dependent on the services and the attitudes to the services that we provide. Maintaining a high level of service, having access to the correct advice and ensuring access to the right products will garner trust within the paying customers of your locality and will help to ensure the quick and long lasting success of your ‘brand’.
So what now? well firsts things first look at your store. Decide how much space is available to dedicate to a reptile offering, it need not be vast. Ascertain your set-up budget and make a few calls to the wholesale partners that will be supporting you going forward. Book some meetings with your agents and take the best advice. This is not all about numbers and margins but is also about dedication and conviction. An agent with passion will always put you on the right track. You will also then see very quickly what is available and be able to decide upon the correct course of action for your business in the unhurried and open-minded fashion that leads to long lasting success.
Natural solutions for habitats
The specialist lighting company Victory Lighting has announced a new range of heat and light lamps for reptile care. Called Made For Reptiles, the range comprises UVB lamps to simulate natural daylight, and ceramic heat lamps for warmth.
The UVB lamps are available with either 5 or 10% UVB content, to suit different species’ habitat requirements, and there is a choice of two lamp formats: T8 tubes as 15, 18, 25, 30 or 36 Watts, and compact fluorescent (CFL) lamps with an ES/E27 screw cap, as 13, 23 or 26 Watts. The CFL versions are highly versatile, as they can be installed in standard light sockets and require no control gear.
The heat lamps emit longwave infrared and are designed as a safe, simple heat source. They produce no visible light and are enclosed in a durable, moisture-proof ceramic casing. They are available as 60, 75, 100, 150 or 250 Watts and, like the CFLs, have a versatile ES/E27 screw cap.
Made For Reptiles lamps are designed to create an environment as close to the animals’ natural environment as possible. Reptiles often originate from climates with higher levels of sunshine, and higher temperatures, than can be simulated by ordinary heating and lighting. It is therefore important for their wellbeing that they receive appropriate amounts of UV light, and heat.
What should we feed our wildlife?
WORDS: Charlotte Long
Feeding the ducks and other species of wildlife evokes happy memories for many, a chance to get up close and find out more about animals we would otherwise rarely get to see.
In a human world that is becoming more health-conscious by the day, our waterways are also becoming ‘no-dough’ areas, as more and more environmental campaigners are urging people to think about what they are feeding our animals in the wild.
Feeding wildlife is indeed a well-intentioned pastime, but rarely do we think about what the possible implications of mindless food choices can do to the animals and their habitats.
Ducks and birds aren’t just jumping on the bandwagon of the ‘gluten-free’ trend; bread can be extremely detrimental to their health. Last year, 6 million loaves of bread were thrown in to the UK’s waterways, which not only damaged the wildfowl’s health, but also polluted their environments. Large amounts of bread can lead to possible fatal or disabling health conditions such as ‘angel wing’, a disease that is caught when ducks fill up on stodgy bread and do not get the necessary nutrients they need.
Llewelyn Lowen from the RSPCA’s wildlife department says that bread is one of the worst foods you can give ducks, “bread should never be given to wild animals – it is very low in nutrients and energy and has been likened by many as “junk food for wildlife”. Feeding on too much bread is a particular problem for water-birds like ducks and swans as it can cause malnutrition as well as affecting their growth, leading to a wing deformity.”
Although, when it comes to feeding birds, bread is not the only food to be avoided. “Desiccated coconut or uncooked rice or pasta should never be left out as food; they pose a serious threat as they will swell up inside a bird’s stomach. Avoid salty fats also, as these can be toxic to birds, and salted nuts, which cause dehydration,” Llewelyn continues.
Not only can feeding the wrong stuff badly effect wildlife, it can also damage their environment too, says Sarah Buckingham from The Wildlife Trusts, “In the case of wildfowl, uneaten bread can lead to algal blooms in waterways, allowing bacteria to spread and attracting rats.”
Another animal suffering some prickly consequences of a poorly educated food selection is the humble hedgehog.
“Many people do not realise that hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and should not be given cow’s milk as this can cause very bad diarrhoea, particularly in young hedgehogs,” says Llewelyn.
It seems to be tradition and common misconception that has led to us to feeding our wildlife the wrong food; children books that depict images of feeding bread to the ducks or old wives’ tales about leaving milk out for hedgehogs.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Since the Canal & River Trust launched their campaign last year, 80,000 less loaves of bread have been thrown in to waterways – the equivalent of 140 Double Decker buses full of bread.
People are also showing more concern as to what to feed wildlife, according to Llewelyn, “In recent years, It’s clear that those who engage in feeding wildlife are taking a greater interest in what they should or should not be feeding them, how they should be feeding them and the consequences of engaging in the irresponsible feeding of wildlife.”
Jamie Wyver, a spokesperson from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, echoes that sentiment, “Now over 60% of the UK’s adults feed garden birds. It’s also very encouraging that the RSPB has over 1.1 million members, showing the huge support for wildlife among the general public. We’re certainly seeing more people wanting to get involved in giving nature a home.”
So what should we be feeding our wildlife? An important factor to consider when purchasing bird feed is to ensure the peanuts are the right quality, says Llewelyn, “Peanuts should only be offered to birds if they have been sold for human consumption, or sourced from a reputable feed shop; this is because peanuts can otherwise often be contaminated with an invisible toxin.”
Kay Bullen, from The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, recommends ‘Spike’s Semi Moist Food’, ‘Spike’s Dry Food’ and ‘I Love Hedgehogs’ food for hedgehogs. You can also safely feed hedgehogs meat (not fish) based dog or cat food.
Badgers can also be fed dog food (although cereal based), with lightly cooked meat, cheese and peanuts. Feeding badgers, in limited amounts, can help to increase the chance of cubs surviving in hot, dry summers and also help all badgers during long cold, frosty periods - when natural food is in short supply.
A good brand of wildfowl food is ‘Wild Things Swan & Duck Food ’ but if you fancy heading down to the local park to feed the ducks and swans, Jamie from the RSPB recommends uncooked oats, grain or defrosted frozen peas.
However it is worth noting that when feeding wildlife, it’s advised to be wary of how it could affect their natural habitat and food chain.
“In general, the advice for regularly feeding any wildlife is to be aware that birds or animals could become reliant on artificial feeding. It's best to provide food in times of greatest need, such as winter when food is scarce and in spring, when there are young, hungry mouths to feed, or as an occasional treat to encourage them for observation,” says Kay Haw, conservation advisor at The Woodland Trust.
Feeding wildlife can be enjoyable and educational, but with more and more information available, and the right products accessible on the market, there’s no excuse for our wild animals to be living on a junk-food diet.
WORDS: John Courteney-Smith MRSB
I recently spent some time advising UK stores ‘out in the field’ as it were in terms of either including live reptiles into store for the first time or with regard to a re-build or re-brand of an existing or tired in-store system. Firstly, I must state once again just how an exciting period it is in which we trade. Never before has there been such a wealth of accurate and well-designed product available to us. Marry that with a deep passion within keepers that wish to enter the retail sector and the availability of high quality and diverse captive bred animals. As such we have the beginnings of yet another reptile keeping ‘revolution’.
I just love Reptiles, Amphibians and Inverts. I love everything about them and their lives. I am totally fixated with all aspects of their care and propagation, likewise I am obsessed with the recent move towards more natural systems that really do go a long way to providing for the actual needs of a species in a safe and measurable way. The best news is that I am certainly not the only one!
“Man I wish I had one of those, but I couldn’t build it, I wouldn’t know where to start”.
I smiled, to be fair I know what he means. I couldn’t build a shed or a Kit Car nor could I walk into NASA and advise them on the mechanics of rocket engines. No, a new thing always has a sense of mystery.
The recent worldwide shift towards to Bio-Activity and the doctrine behind ‘Wild Re-creation’ per species is a real godsend for us as traders. Not only does this concept help to greatly increase welfare but it also provides us with more inspirational displays. These displays become our shopfront, the aspirational aspect of the hobby. They become a focal point and a badge of honour within the locality and within the trade. In reality keepers and potential keepers will travel great distances to see a bank of stunning and well thought out displays, word spreads quickly now and you can use this, if you maintain high standards to attract people into store.
Ok, so let’s say that you now have a stunning and well thought out array of vivaria, all of them live planted and with all of the bells and whistles that are needed to sustain an enclosure of this type. Let us assume that people are now visiting you to appreciate the systems that you have created, the one thing that can be guaranteed is that a percentage of them will instantly suffer with the open wallet blocking curse of ‘I can’t do that’.
So, how can we overcome this problem in an effective way that ensures high levels of welfare? The answer is very simple; we have to re-learn the processes to sale.
Firstly, we must always access and ethically encourage a customer. If they say “I just love that system, I really wish I could have one, but there is no way that I could build it”
You can formulate an effective answer with a few basic statements. Firstly, always thank the customer for taking an interest but be realistic. A simple “thanks, I’m glad you like it, it took a lot of time and effort” is a good place to start.
You must then access their ability to care for the system. You should find out if they have kept exotics before and if they would be willing to put the hours in to learning and maintaining the system. Always be honest, you need to weed out those that simply can never or should never have the responsibility of pet ownership. Tell them about the time frame needed to care for the system, the cost of buying and maintaining the system and of course the likely lifespan of the species. If we are always honest our customers will trust us and stay loyal.